Bardsley bursts City's title hopes
By Adam Bailey
Ex-Manchester United defender Phil Bardsley condemned Manchester City to their fourth defeat of the season in a 1-0 win that inflicted significant wounds into City's title hopes.
The Stadium of Light has become a 'stadium of plight' for the Blues who have now suffered four consecutive 1-0 losses in Wearside. Gus Poyet's Black Cats were drowning in the depths of the relegation zone before 2pm on Sunday afternoon, but a thrilling three points against Manuel Pellegrini's side will help scratch themselves back up the table.
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The hosts started brightly when Sebastian Larsson tested the alertness of a make-shift City defence with a wicked ball that just escaped striker Steven Fletcher. However, the Swede was lucky to escape a straight red card just minutes later when he presented Javi Garcia with a menacing view of the bottom of his boot. Mike Dean was perfectly positioned, but not even a yellow was shown to the midfielder.
City's luck then went from bad to worse and on 21 minutes, Bardsley bundled over James Milner and curled a delicious finish into the corner of Costel Pantilimon's net. Again, Dean's judgement was questionable, but Wes Brown's ball should have been dealt with.
In the absence of David Silva and Fernandinho, City's midfield lacked magic. Yaya Touré looked uninterested; Samir Nasri couldn't work his magic; Garcia was still limping from Larsson's challenge and Milner was industrious, but largely ineffective. Sergio Agüero and Álvaro Negredo were there to be fed, but a lack of service left them hungry.
Things weren't going to plan and after the half time break, Pellegrini introduced the speed of Jesús Navas in place of an injured Javi Garcia. The change was inspirational and the speedy Spaniard immediately announced himself into proceedings. Navas was terrorising Bardsley with ease, but his crosses were being wasted by City's front two.
Sunderland wouldn't budge. The team coach was driven onto the field of play just seconds after their first goal and Brown was in the driving seat. The ex-Manchester United centre back will struggle to top Sunday's performance in a game where Agüero, Negredo and substitute Edin Džeko hardly had a sniff.
City's away form needs to be addressed and the Chilean chancellor knows that more than anyone. Many will feel his side's priorities lie in the Champions League, but his strongest team was fielded and the players have to take some blame.
63% Possession 37%
24 (4) Shots (on target) 5 (2)
14 Corners 0
13 Fouls 6